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Geological Society statement following Government announcements on shale gas

5 December 2012

Shale

Shale gas can be extracted safely provided that best practice is rigorously applied under an appropriate regulatory regime which addresses environmental and societal concerns. The technology to explore for and extract shale gas is well established. Before exploration and production proceed, baseline surveys should be carried out to establish natural levels of micro-seismicity and the presence of methane in soils and near-surface aquifers. These data are necessary if the extraction of shale gas is to be effectively regulated and is to command public confidence.

There is significant shale gas resource beneath the surface of the UK, although the extent of that resource and how much of it can be extracted economically is unknown at present. The Government has indicated that it sees shale gas as contributing to our future energy mix. This is a political decision, on which the Geological Society does not have a view. If shale gas usage were to substitute for the burning of coal there would be a potentially beneficial reduction in CO2 emissions as we move to a low carbon economy. However, our continuing dependence on fossil fuels, of whatever form, over the coming decades will only be compatible with avoiding potentially dangerous global environmental change if the resulting carbon emissions are abated. It is therefore important to demonstrate carbon capture and storage (CCS) at commercial scale urgently and to ensure its widespread and rapid implementation.

A Geological Society briefing note on shale gas, its extraction and potential environmental risks can be found at www.geolsoc.org.uk/shalegas, together with presentations and other materials from a June 2012 public briefing meeting.